Monday, October 31, 2005

Plymouth ends three-game skid

Their three-game losing streak is over as the Plymouth Whalers salvaged their weekend with a 6-5 win over the Owen Sound Attack Sunday afternoon.

After losing to Belleville last Saturday, the Whalers began last weekend with an 8-3 loss in London Friday night and then a 2-1 squeaker to Guelph at home on Saturday night.

Friday night against the defending OHL and Memorial Cup champs, David Bolland scored three goals for the Knights as London cruised to the easy win. Josh Beaulieu scored 29 seconds into the game and Robbie Drummond, Trevor Kell, A.J. Perry and captain Dylan Hunter also tallied for London. Hunter added four assists and Rob Schremp chipped in with three helpers. Adam Dennis stopped 37 shots for the win.

“We stood around and watched (London),” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “We gave them too much respect and by the time we woke up and realized we could compete with them, it was too late.”

Vaclav Meidl, James Neal and Ondrej Otcenas (first OHL goal) scored for the Whalers, who got 19 saves out of starter Justin Garay and 11 saves out of Ryan Nie, who played 19:09 of the second period. Garay was credited with the loss. Captain John Vigilante added two assists.

“We felt we had something to prove. We don't want losing to become a habit in here,” Bolland said in the London Free Press. “I don't know if Plymouth had an off night, but we had heard they were one of the top teams in the West and we wanted to come out and perform the way we can.”

At the Compuware Sports Arena Saturday night, the Storm jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Rafael Rotter and Tyler Doig and held on for the 2-1 win. Vigilante scored a short-handed goal 10:37 into the third period, but Plymouth couldn’t find the equalizer with Nie on the bench.

“A two-goal lead is nothing in hockey and it would have been easier if we would have had the lead,” Nie said. “We just have to better prepare and get back to basics.”

Nie finished with 28 saves. Ryan MacDonald made 28 saves for the Storm, but wasn’t named a star. First star went to Vigilante, second to Guelph captain Ryan Callahan and third to Plymouth forward Chris Terry.

Gino Pisellini also had a great toe-to-toe fight with Kelsey Wilson in the second period.

Against Owen Sound for a matinee Sunday, Tom Sestito’s power-play goal 7:48 into the third period off-set an Andrej Sekera hat trick for Owen Sound and Nie stopped 39 shots for the 6-5 win.

“The coaches had told us between (the second and third) periods that the referees were calling everything but we still took some stupid penalties and they capitalized on them," said Sestito (pictured), who added an assist on Pisellini's goal, to the Canadian Press. “We were fortunate to be able to respond. The bench never got down and I was able to get in front of the net and get my stick on a loose puck.”

Jared Boll and Andrew Fournier had a goal and an assist for the Whalers, Terry recorded three assists and Dan Collins and Vigilante added a pair. Cory Tanaka (penalty shot), Neal and Pisellini scored Plymouth’s other goals.

Owen Sound captain Bobby Ryan and Mike Angelidis each had a goal and two assists for the Attack while Neil Conway started in net and allowed four goals on 12 shots in 27:42. Russ Brownell took over and stopped nine of 11 in 30:41.

The Whalers are in Windsor Thursday night, in Guelph Friday night and home against Toronto on Saturday evening.

Sestito photo courtesy of the Plymouth Whalers

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Whalers trade Looby to Kingston

The Plymouth Whalers have settled their overage situation with today's trade of veteran defenseman Mike Looby to the Kingston Frontenacs in exchange for a sixth-round draft choice in 2007.

The Whalers will also have the option of taking Kingston’s first-round selection in the 2006 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft in exchange for their own.

“Mike Looby did a good job for us,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “In trading him to Kingston, he’ll get a chance to play every game.”

OHL teams can carry as many as three overage players (1985 birthdays). The Whalers’ current overagers include captain John Vigilante, defenseman Mike Letizia and goaltender Ryan Nie.

Looby was acquired last season from Sault Ste. Marie on Sept. 21, 2004 and played in 59 games last season for the Whalers, scoring eight goals with 12 assists for 20 points and 72 penalty minutes while posting an impressive +19 plus/minus rating. This season – due to the overage situation – Looby played in just six games for Plymouth, going scoreless with eight penalty minutes and a +3 rating.

Kentwood native commits to Merrimack

The Sioux City Musketeers have announced forward Matt Jones has committed to Merrimack College for next fall.

Jones, from Kentwood, is a first-year skater with the Musketeers and is currently fifth in scoring on the team with two goals and four assists for six points in 10 games. Last year, Jones played with the Soo Indians of the NAHL and tallied 17 goals among 37 points.

Sioux City coach-GM Dave Siciliano recalled how Marty Quarters, a former assistant coach with the Muskies and current assistant with Merrimack, had recruited Jones initially for the Musketeers.

“Marty really liked Matt and thought he was a good fit for our organization," Siciliano said. “Marty moving on to Merrimack certainly helped him land Jones in that organization.”

Siciliano went on to state that Jones should have a fine year in Sioux City.

“Matt is off to a good start," Siciliano said. "He’s a power forward who’s at his best when he’s physically involved on the ice. We expect Matt to contribute goals and big hits for our team.”

Spirit beat 'Hounds, first in West

With their 2-1 win Wednesday night in Sault Ste. Marie, the Saginaw Spirit vaulted into first place in the OHL's West Division.

Saginaw now has 16 points, one better than the Plymouth Whalers.

Joe McCann (left) scored the game-winner out of mid-air early in the second period and Tom Pyatt's power-play goal 8:24 into the first period gave the Spirit an early 1-0 lead.

"This was a total team win," said Saginaw coach-GM Bob Mancini. "If we're going to continue on our quest to be a good team, we have to find different ways to win. Whether you play one minute or 30 minutes, you have to give your best every time on the ice and good things will happen."

Spirit goaltender Francois Thuot turned back 19 shots into the 13th minute of the second period, when he removed himself from the game, to be replaced by goalie Ryan Daniels, who finished with 10 saves.

Brett Halstead scored a power-play goal 35 seconds into the second period for Sault Ste. Marie's lone goal.

"We had to dig down deep for this one," said Mancini. "We played the clock well, made smart decisions and kept the game simple."

Saginaw returns to action Saturday against the Kitchener Rangers at 7:11 p.m. at the Dow Event Center.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

IceDiggers make bevy of roster moves

The Alpena IceDiggers have announced a series of moves including a trade that sends veteran defensemen Adam Snead to the Cleveland Barons for forward Anthony McIntyre and defenseman John Kivisto.

McIntyre (left) is in his second NAHL season as he played nine games with the Soo Indians last year before going back to play midgets with HoneyBaked halfway through the season.

"This guy is going to move the puck north and south and he will fill the role we are looking for and that is scoring goals," said Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller. "He can flat out play."

Miller hopes Kivisto can come in and make an impact as well.

"John will step in and become a big part of our defensive core," Miller said. "He will help our defensemen in all situations. John also has a good bloodline. His older brother, Kurt, who played with him in Cleveland last year, is at Michigan State as a recruited walk-on."

Miller is also looking to improve the IceDiggers roster with the signing of forward Gilles Hickey from Upper Canada College Prep School. Hickey is the son of former NHL player Pat Hickey who played 644 games in the NHL with the New York Rangers, Colorado Rockies, Quebec Nordiques, Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues.

"We are very pleased to add Gilles to our lineup," said Miller. "He is a good skater who we feel has the potential to be solid forward in the NAHL. He should also be able to score goals for us during the season."

Also being added to the roster is forward Austin Rugal as he was obtained from the Traverse City North Stars for a fifth-round draft pick next year.

"The trade will give Austin an opportunity to get more playing time," Miller said. "He will have to come in here and earn his ice time. The move not only helps us right now, but also into the future. Austin scored over 85 points last season at the midget level with Belle Tire."

McIntyre, Kivisto, Hickey and Rugal are expected to report this week and could be in an Alpena uniform as early as Friday night when the IceDiggers host the U.S. National Team Development Program's Under-17 Team this Friday and Saturday at the Northern Lights Arena.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Lewicki sets sights on college opportunity

By Matt Mackinder
USA Junior Hockey Magazine

Texarkana Bandits coach-GM Jon Cooper says that Aaron Lewicki is tailor-made for the college game. All he needs is a school to make an offer.

“Aaron is an excellent skater and has an innate ability to score from anywhere,” Cooper said. “He’s a gifted goal-scorer and has that ‘puck luck.’”

Lewicki is in his second year with the Bandits, a year the 18-year-old hopes is his last in the NAHL.

“I’ve always wanted to play college hockey,” said Lewicki. “I’ve been in contact with a couple schools, but no offers yet. I’d like to play somewhere in the CCHA and stay close to home (Livonia, Mich.), but hopefully we can have something squared away by midseason.”

Cooper said that along with his potent offensive instincts, Lewicki also has an intangible quality that can’t be taught at practice.

“Aaron’s a pretty big kid (6-foot, 200 pounds) and he uses that size to his advantage,” noted Cooper. “He also had great speed and because he has that, he’s able to get to pucks others might not get to. When we had our weight testing before the season, Aaron benched 300 pounds, so you know he’s pretty well put together.”

As for making the jump to the NCAA ranks, Lewicki isn’t that far away. Cooper observed many positive improvements Lewicki has made from a year ago.

“If I were to run a tape of Aaron Lewicki last year and Aaron Lewicki this year, it would be night and day,” Cooper said. “And he knows what he still needs to work on to play college hockey. His play in his own end needs a little bit of work, but I think most kids coming out of midgets and high school need work on that (Lewicki played Major Midgets for HoneyBaked in 2003-04 before coming to Texarkana).”

“I still need to work on pretty much everything as everyone pretty much does,” Lewicki said. “I think I’ve improved on my defensive zone coverage and knowing what’s going on and seeing the ice. But there’s always something to work on.”

Not to look too far ahead, Lewicki said a scholarship and Gold Cup national title are his immediate goals to make this year a successful one.

“He’ll get some offers soon,” said Cooper.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Whalers beat Rangers, fall to Bulls

It was a gut-check weekend for the Plymouth Whalers.

Friday night in Kitchener, Justin Garay (left) made 29 saves to record his first OHL shutout as Plymouth topped the Rangers, 3-0. Mike Letizia, Andrew Fournier and Tom Sestito (power-play) all scored for the Whalers.

The game was also the OHL debut of Rangers' forward Matt Auffrey, who left the University of Wisconsin to play for Kitchener, the team that drafted him in the third round of the 2002 OHL Priority Selection.

"It was a get-going and get-used-to-the-flow-of-the-play game for me," Auffrey told the Kitchener-Waterloo Record. "It's a lot smaller rink. I'm used to a really big Olympic-size rink where you play a lot more systems. This is a lot more banging."

Back home Saturday night, Belleville goalie Kevin Lalande made 36 saves as the Bulls beat the Whalers, 3-1, and ended their six-game winning streak. James Neal's first-period power-play goal was Lalande's lone blemish. Plymouth goalie Ryan Nie finished with 29 saves.

"You could tell the guys were maybe a bit cocky after the big win in Kitchener," Whalers coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. "We didn't come prepared (against Belleville) and in this league, you have to come ready to play."

The Whalers play in London against the Knights Friday night and hosts Guelph on Saturday night and Owen Sound on Sunday.

Saginaw beats Greyhounds, Bulls

The Saginaw Spirit are off to their best 10-game start in team history with a 7-3-0-0 mark after two home wins last weekend over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Belleville Bulls.

Saturday night, underage rookie Zack Torquato (left) scored twice in Saginaw's 5-2 win. Tom Pyatt, Joe McCann and Ryan McDonough also tallied for the Spirit while goalie Francois Thuot made 31 saves.

"This wasn't a pretty win," said Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini. "We had to dig deep to get this victory."

Sunday afternoon, Jesse Gimblett, McDonough, Michal Birner and Pyatt scored in the 4-1 victory. Ryan Daniels turned back 33 shots in the game to earn his fourth win.

"It was like the parting of the Red Sea for me out there today," Daniels said of the team's effort. "The guys were really letting me see the puck well and helped clear the area when I couldn't contain rebounds."

The Spirit return to action Wednesday in Sault Ste. Marie and return to the Dow Event Center Saturday to face the Kitchener Rangers.

North Stars break even at Showcase

The Traverse City North Stars sandwiched two wins around two losses at last week's NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minn.

Opening the week, Traverse City fell, 6-1, to the Bozeman Icedogs before rebounding the next day with a 7-1 thumping of the Billings Bulls. The North Stars then held on for a 4-3 win over the Wasilla Spirit and ended the week with a 3-1 loss to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.

"It was a very positive experience," said Traverse City associate coach Mike Stapleton. "For the kids to see that they can compete and that they do belong with these teams was important. Now, they have expectations of themselves and we have expectations of them that are higher. It's an important learning tool for the rest of the season."

The North Stars travel to Mahoning Valley this Saturday and Sunday for two North Division games with the Phantoms.

Alpena goes 1-3 at NAHL Showcase

The Alpena IceDiggers came to the North American Hockey League Showcase in Blaine, Minn., this past week hoping to build on the momentum of two straight home wins.

However, the 'Diggers went just 1-3.

With their 5-2 win over the Helena Bighorns on Saturday, the IceDiggers snapped a three-game losing streak and salvaged a little pride at the 20-team tournament.

"We didn't play our best during the showcase, no doubt about it," said IceDiggers coach-GM Kenny Miller. 'What I did see is we came back Saturday and were able to get a win."

Even though the IceDiggers went 1-3, Miller feels the Showcase is a good way to evaluate the progress of the team.

"The boys see what it takes to be competitive in the league," said Miller. "As we found out, when we don't play to our potential, it's going to be hard to win."

Alpena's three losses came against North Iowa (2-1), Wasilla (3-0) and Billings (5-2).

The IceDiggers return home to face the U.S. Under-17 Team this Friday and Saturday.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Canton native commits to LSSU

Chicago Steel forward Nathan Perkovich has verbally committed to Lake Superior State University and will join the Lakers for the 2006-07 season.

Perkovich, a native of Canton, becomes the third Steel player to make his collegiate commitment this season. The 6-foot-5, 195-pounder is in his third season in the United States Hockey League. Prior to joining the Steel, Perkovich played for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.

Currently, Perkovich, a New Jersey Devils draft pick, has a goal and an assist for two points in six games as well as 25 penalty minutes.

"Nathan has paid his dues in the USHL," remarked Steel coach-GM Chris Imes. "He plays hard every shift, every day. His leadership is reminiscent of (Detroit Red Wing Steve) Yzerman, he's quiet and lets his play do the talking. Nathan recovered well from his knee injury and has made an immediate impact this season. Perk is a great example of perseverance, discipline and dedication, and he is being rewarded with a scholarship."

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mantha and Spits in hot water with OHL

Former Saginaw Spirit head coach Moe Mantha, now the Windsor Spitfires' coach and general manager, has faced the proverbial music with the OHL for a pre-season hazing incident on the team bus and a separate incident at a team practice between Steve Downie and Akim Aliu.

As a result of the hazing incident, Mantha (pictured center) will be suspended for one year as general manager and 25 games as coach. He will be suspended for a further 15 games from coaching as a result of the incident at the team practice, for a total suspension from coaching for 40 games.

The Spitfires were also fined $35,000 for the two incidents.

“The League has a deep responsibility to all our players and their families to foster and provide a healthy environment for the development and well-being of all the young men in our League," OHL commissioner David Branch said. "We must never lose sight of our obligation in this area. Everyone connected with the Ontario Hockey League must learn and grow as a result of this experience."

Mantha coached Saginaw the latter half of the 2003-2004 season.

Read the full OHL press release here.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

IceDiggers sweep North Stars

The Alpena IceDiggers again couldn't put away the Traverse City North Stars in regulation, but did take a 3-2 shootout victory Saturday night at the Northern Lights Arena.

Alpena needed overtime on Friday night to defeat the North Stars.

The IceDiggers got the lone goal of the first period as Drew Pierson scored a power-play goal at 17:59.

Traverse City answered back when Matthew Larke scored at 2:27 of the second period. Zeke Costello put the visitors in the lead 2-1 at 1:20 of the third. Then, with 4:32 left to play, Justin Stadler tied the score. The goal gave the IceDiggers the momentum needed to carry over into overtime.

But after a five-minute overtime with no scoring, the game went to a shootout which the IceDiggers won 2-1. Alpena captain Nolan Craner (above left) scored the game-winner.

"We are very happy with the start to our home campaign," Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller said. "But we have a lot of work to do and get better as a team."

"They say we get two points for these two games, but it sure doesn't feel like we're coming away with much," North Stars coach-GM Scott Gardiner said, referring to the one point award for the overtime/shootout losses on Friday and Saturday. "We played a little better tonight (than Friday), but it just wasn't good enough."

The North Stars and IceDiggers both travel to the North American Hockey League Showcase in Blaine, Minn., this week, with games Oct. 19-22.

Saginaw all over Owen Sound, 4-1

Fresh off blowing a 4-1 lead to Sarnia Friday night, the Saginaw Spirit held a 4-1 lead and beat the Owen Sound Attack by that margin Saturday night at home.

Ryan McDonough (left) scored the hat trick and Tom Pyatt also scored for the Spirit. Chris Chappell assisted on McDonough's second goal for his first OHL point.

Goaltender Ryan Daniels turned aside 39 shots in the effort.

“It’s important to remember this was a team victory,” Daniels said. “I gave up some rebounds and the guys cleared the puck for me. It was a good team effort.”

“Our players showed a lot of character,” Saginaw coach-GM Bob Mancini said. “It was a great team effort from the net out.”

Saginaw returns to ice for back-to-back home games Saturday, Oct. 22 and Sunday, Oct. 23. The Spirit face the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Belleville Bulls.

Whalers keep rolling, upend Sarnia

The Plymouth Whalers continued to utilize their power play as they scored all five goals with the man-advantage en route to a 5-3 win on home ice last night against the Sarnia Sting.

Dan Collins continued his fine play this week, scoring twice as the game's first star. In all, Collins scored seven goals in three games this week, all Plymouth victories. Collins scored three goals and an assist in the Whalers' 7-2 victory over Mississauga Wednesday night and added two goals Friday night in a 4-2 win over Oshawa. Collins was the game's first star in all three games. Colllins leads Plymouth with 13 goals over nine games.

Jared Boll, Gino Pisellini and Vaclav Meidl added single goals for the Whalers. Captain John Vigilante (above right) added three assists.

Ryan Nie picked up the victory in goal for Plymouth with 31 saves.

Sarnia out-shot Plymouth, 34-29.

Plymouth is off until next Friday night when they play in Kitchener at 7:30 pm at the Memorial Auditorium. The Whalers' next home game is next Saturday night at 7:30 pm against the Belleville Bulls.

Vigilante photo by Matt Mackinder

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Plymouth defeats Oshawa Friday night

Dan Collins (left) kept up his torrid pace with two more goals as the Plymouth Whalers beat the Oshawa Generals, 4-2, Friday night at home.

Jared Boll scored his third goal of the season and third in the last two games and Chris Terry scored in his second straight game. John Armstrong, captain John Vigilante and Ryan McGinnis added two assists each for Plymouth.

Collins now has a team-best 11 goals on the year.

Plymouth goaltender Justin Garay stopped 34 of 36 shots for his third victory of the season.

The Whalers host Sarnia tonight at 7:30 pm at the Compuware Sports Arena in an early-season showdown for first place in the OHL's West Division.

Spirit blow 4-1 lead, lose in Sarnia

The Saginaw Spirit put division rivals Sarnia on the ropes Friday night on the road, but were unable to put the Sting away, losing 5-4. The Spirit held a 4-1 lead, but four straight Sarnia goals in the third period, including three power-play goals, gave the Sting the win.

“This was a very disappointing loss,” said Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini. “We will have to react now and prepare ourselves for tomorrow’s game against Owen Sound.”

Matt Corrente, captain Patrick McNeill, Tommy Mannino and Ryan McDonough scored for Saginaw. Goalie Francois Thuot (pictured) stopped 41 shots in defeat, including a penalty shot attempt by Daniel Lombardi.

Corrente, McDonough and McNeill had multiple-point games.

The Spirit play Owen Sound at home tonight at 7:11 p.m.

IceDiggers win home opener in OT

Zach Barron (left) knocked home his own rebound 2:17 into overtime to give the Alpena IceDiggers a 2-1 win over the Traverse City North Stars in Friday night’s home opener.

Barron skated the right-side board and fired the initial shot from the circle. Traverse City goalie Jeremy Kaleniecki made the initial save, but the rebound came right back to Barron allowing him to drive the net for the game winner. Jeff Miller and Drew Pierson drew assists on the play.

“It feels great,” Barron said. “We worked hard to get the game-winner. It was a total team effort.”

Alpena got on the board first when Justin Stadler got the puck from Matt Suggs and stuffed the puck home on a wrap-around from behind the net. The power-play goal came 13:56 into the game. Alpena played with the 1-0 lead until 4:37 of third when Travis Peath tied the game.

Acquired on Monday, goaltender Johnny Morrow came up big for Alpena. Morrow, who had practiced twice with the ‘Diggers, turned away 45 shots.

“Johnny Morrow was excellent tonight,” said Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller. “He practiced with us for two days and the guys have confidence in him. He’s been what I expected.”

"We didn't even wake up until the third period," North Stars coach-GM Scott Gardiner said. "We've been off two weeks and it was their home opener, and they had more jump and just flat outplayed us for the first two and a half periods."

Keleniecki finished with 44 saves.

The teams meet again tonight in another NAHL North Division showdown at the Northern Lights Arena. Face-off is slated for 7 p.m.

"We just have to take the last 10 minutes of the game tonight and roll it into tomorrow," Gardiner added. "We have to come out and play like we're not going to wait around to get it going like we did tonight."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Huntsville-bound Train on winning track

By Matt Mackinder
Courtesy of USA Junior Hockey Magazine

If you would have asked him five years ago what he thought about playing eight years of his hockey career in the southern United States, Tom Train would have laughed at you and called you such words as “crazy” and “insane.”

Five years later, Train is laughing, but for different reasons.

A Troy, Mich., native, Train is back to captain the Texas Tornado for his fourth and final junior season and has a full, four-year ride waiting for him at Alabama-Huntsville starting in the fall of 2006.

“It’s true that five years ago if someone would have told me I’d be playing junior hockey in Texas, I would have said something like, ‘Oh yeah, right,’” Train said. “What’s funnier is there are a lot of kids on the team from Michigan, like Billy Skwarczewski who I played with on Belle Tire (Midget Minor), and most of them feel the same way.”

After Train finished that Midget Minor year back in 2000-01, he went over to Canada to play Junior B with the Leamington (Ontario) Flyers to gain experience playing with older guys.

Tornado coach-GM Tony Curtale also watched the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Train at Michigan-area Tornado tryout camps and knew one day he’d get Train to come down to the Lone Star State.

“He’s a great kid and he’s a leader,” said Curtale. “He’s very competitive and physical and I think the best defensive forward in the league.”

Wearing the ‘C’ hasn’t changed Train’s overall game at all. If anything, it’s made him realize his potential. Last year, he was tied for second in the NAHL with 33 goals and third on Texas with 69 points.

“I feel I’m the type of captain that leads by example, but also can be vocal,” said Train. “We have a young team this year and I’m talking a bit more now on and off the ice to show the younger kids the way.”

Train is also looking forward to Huntsville next fall. He had an offer the start their this season, but for one reason or another, decided to come back to the Tornado and try for a third straight NAHL crown.

Kind of ironic, too, that a two-time defending champion chugging full-speed ahead has a captain named Train.

Alpena makes roster transactions

Johnny Morrow, Eric Curtis and Travis Peterson are in and Justin Marriott, Mitch Rybicki and Jake Hovick are out.

The Alpena IceDiggers signed Morrow (Romeo), a goaltender, and Peterson and acquired Curtis (Grand Rapids), a forward, in roster transactions made yesterday.

Morrow (pictured above) left the NAHL's Fargo-Moorehead Jets to join the IceDiggers. He hadn't appeared in any Jets’ games this season.

"Johnny may be a rookie, but he brings a lot to the table," Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller said. "We had chance to look at Johnny during the summer and liked him then. We're giving him an opportunity to compete for the No. 1 job.

To make room for Morrow, Miller released goaltenders Marriott and Rybicki.

"It's tough to let players go," said Miller. "But the goal is to assemble the best possible hockey club and our staff believes this is the best direction for our team. We wish Justin and Mitch well.

The IceDiggers picked up Curtis from the North Iowa Outlaws in exchange for a third round pick in the 2006 NAHL Draft. Curtis fills the roster spot of Hovick, who had season-ending shoulder surgery. Alpena is Curtis' third NAHL club since the beginning of the season as he began 2005-2006 with the Helena Bighorns before a very brief stop in North Iowa, where he did not see any action. In Curtis, the IceDiggers get a veteran forward who has spent parts of three seasons in the NAHL. In four games with the Bighorns, Curtis didn't record any points, but did lead the team with 20 penalty minutes.

Peterson played his first IceDigger game on Oct. 8 after starting the year with North Iowa. In Peterson, Miller is looking for an all-around player, "one who can put up some numbers, but also work hard along the wall."

The IceDiggers resume play with their home opener tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. at Northern Lights Arena versus the Traverse City North Stars. Friday’s game in will be broadcast on WATZ 1450 AM with coverage beginning at 6:45 p.m.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Whalers win big in Mississauga, 7-2

Dan Collins (above) continued his torrid early season scoring spree with three goals and an assist to lead the Plymouth Whalers over the Mississauga IceDogs, 7-2, tonight on the road.

In winning their their straight game, Plymouth (4-2-1-0) moves into sole possession of first place in the OHL's West Division. Plymouth - with nine points - is now one point ahead of Saginaw (4-2-0-0), Sarnia (4-3-0-0) and Sault Ste. Marie (4-4-0-0) who all have eight points.

Jared Boll scored his first two goals this season and Vaclav Meidl and Chris Terry also tallied for Plymouth. Justin Garay made 31 saves in net for the victory. Rookies Ondrej Otcenas and Leo Jenner, also playing his first OHL game, recorded their first OHL points as Otcenas assisted on Terry's goal and Jenner drew an assist on Coillins' first goal.

Collins (seven goals, nine assists, 16 points) is now tied for fourth place in OHL scoring with Plymouth captain John Vigilante (5-11-16) and London Knights rookie Sergei Kostitsyn (4-12-16).

The Whalers are back in action Friday night when they host Oshawa and super rookie John Tavares, the OHL's only 1990-born player, at 7:30 p.m. at the Compuware Sports Arena.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Michigan juniors weekend roundup

Friday night, the Plymouth Whalers posted a 6-3 win over the Sudbury Wolves and Saturday night came from behind twice to beat the Windsor Spitfires, 6-5.

Against Sudbury, Plymouth goaltender Ryan Nie was the game's first star with 50 saves. Mike Letizia led the Plymouth attack with a pair of goals, Cory Tanaka and John Armstrong scored their first goals of the season and captain John Vigilante and James Neal added singles for the Whalers.

In the Windsor game, Vigilante had two goals and an assist. Neal added three assists and Ryan McGinnis, Armstrong, Andrew Fournier and Dan Collins scored one goal apiece for Plymouth. Jared Boll (pictured above) also tallied his first point of the season as he had an assist on Armstrong's goal.

Nie made 34 stops for the win.

Plymouth plays in Mississauga Wednesday and at home Friday (Oshawa) and Saturday (Sarnia).

Playing just one game this past weekend, the Saginaw Spirit beat Sudbury Saturday night, 6-3. Michal Birner and Ryan McDonough each had two goals and an assist for the first-place Spirit. Jesse Gimblett and Zack Torquato each posted a goal and an assist while goaltender Francois Thuot recorded 22 saves.

Captain Patrick McNeill also had two helpers in the Saginaw victory.

The Spirit play in Sarnia Friday night and host Owen Sound on Saturday evening.

The Traverse City North Stars had an off weekend in their schedule, but play two in Alpena this Friday and Saturday.

The Alpena IceDiggers were swept by the U.S. Under-17 Team in Ann Arbor Friday and Saturday. Alpena lost 7-1 and 6-3 in games that didn't have the same feel for penalty minutes as the games Sept. 17-18 against the Under-18 Team.

Justin Marriott started Friday's game for Alpena and made 13 saves on 17 shots before Phil Greer took over and stopped 10 of 13 shots. Erik Peterson scored the lone Alpena goal.

On Saturday, the IceDiggers fared a bit better, but lost their third straight and fifth in their last six. Branden Moran registered a goal and an assist and Steve Culbertson and Taylor Doorlag notched singles. Mitch Rybicki played the whole game in goal and finished with 29 saves.

The IceDiggers host Traverse City this weekend.

The Northern Michigan Black Bears beat the Blind River Beavers, 5-3, on home ice Friday night in Sault Ste. Marie. Tony Stoehr made 20 saves for the victory as the Black Bears scored three in the third period to rally for the win.

Michael Caprio scored twice, including the game-winner midway through the third period, and added an assist in the game. Michael Herbert, Anthony Perdicaro and Al Stamker scored the other Northern Michigan goals.

Northern Michigan hosts the Soo on Wednesday and Abitibi on Friday.

Michigan 4 at Peoria 6

Michigan 0 at Peoria 5
Flint 1 at St. Louis 5
Cincinnati 1 at Motor City 5
Grand Rapids 2 at Cleveland 4
Toledo 3 at Metro 4

Flint 0 at St. Louis 8
Cincinnati 8 at Motor City 6
Grand Rapids at Cleveland (postponed - compressor failure)

Boll photo by Matt Mackinder

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Olsen earns permanent spot with Alpena

Jeff Olsen's temporary run with the Alpena IceDiggers went so well that both sides wanted to make it permanent.

Olsen, an Alpena High senior who started for the Wildcats the past two seasons, will continue playing for the IceDiggers. While he didn't muster any points in the two contests, he did catch the attention of coach-GM Kenny Miller.

"We are very happy to have Jeff join us full time," said Miller. "Jeff played well in the two games in Traverse City and we feel he will help our team in our quest to win the North Division."

Olsen becomes the second Wildcat to earn a roster spot. Olsen's classmate, IceDiggers' center Erik Peterson, is also on the squad.

"Adding another local player is a great thing for the team and the town," Miller noted. "It says a lot about the high school program."

"I am real excited about playing," said Olsen. "Juniors is an amazing level of hockey and I know it will allow me to continue developing my game."

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Saturday's Michigan juniors roundup

Tracking Michigan's teams last night:

The Traverse City North Stars completed a sweep of the U.S. Under-17 Team with a 2-1 shootout victory on home ice. Joe St. John gave TC a 1-0 lead before USA tied it on a goal from Colin Wilson. All three North Stars' shooters - Adam Sponseller, Zeke Costello and Danny Dries - scored in the shootout while Traverse City goalie Ryan Donovan stopped all three USA attempts. Donovan finished with 32 saves.

"It was a great weekend for us," said North Stars coach Scott Gardiner. "To get the four points is big, getting over .500 is big, but it's how we did it - with so many different guys doing different things. It's important for us to know we can win with different combinations and with different guys stepping up."

On the road in Erie, the Saginaw Spirit allowed four power-play goals to the host Otters and fell, 4-1. Patrick Asselin scored the lone Spirit goal while goaltender Francois Thuot made 29 saves. Trenton native Sean O'Connor scored Erie's third goal.

Over in the CSHL, Chicago beat Flint, 5-2; Metro beat Cincinnati, 4-3, in a shootout; Grand Rapids defeated St. Louis, 5-2; Motor City 7, Michigan 4.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Friday's Michigan juniors roundup

Chris Cooper scored twice for the Black Bears last night

Last night was a busy night for junior hockey in Michigan.

On the road in Kitchener, the Saginaw Spirit extended their winning streak to three games with a 4-2 win over the host Rangers. Michal Birner scored twice and Jesse Gimblett and Jack Combs added singles. Saginaw goalie Francois Thuot stopped 46 shots for the win.

In Plymouth, the Whalers played before a sparse Friday night crowd and fell to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 4-2. Dan Collins scored both goals for Plymouth and goalie Justin Garay made 31 saves. The Whalers were 1-for-14 on the power play.

Over in Traverse City, the North Stars used a three-goal outburst to beat the U.S. Under-17 Team, 4-3. Danny Dries, Jonathan Juliano, Patrick Nagorsen and newcomer Adam Sponseller tallied for Traverse City making Jeremy Kaleniecki's 26-save performance in net stand up.

The Alpena IceDiggers are off until next weekend when they play a pair in Ann Arbor against the U.S. Under-17 Team.

At Big Bear Arena, the Northern Michigan Black Bears dropped a 5-4 decision to the North Bay Skyhawks. Chris Cooper scored two goals and Ryan Huggett and Michael Caprio one apiece. Goaltender Michael Bell made 13 saves in defeat.

In CSHL play, the Flint Jr. Generals beat the Michigan Ice Dogs, 4-3, that saw the lead change three times. Scott Gossman and Dave Stone had a goal and an assist each. Also scoring were Matt Prashaw and Joel Hornung. Ben Liebenow stopped 38 shots to get the win in goal for Flint. Justin Petterle, Shawn Skelly and Joe Trotter scored for the Ice Dogs and Dave Wilson stopped 21 in the loss.